TDOT edict sparks flag battle in Oliver Springs

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By Cindy Simpson

A staple of the Memorial Day holiday in Oliver Springs will be no more.

The Disabled American Veterans chapter in Oliver Springs was planning to keep the 31 American flags up until after Flag Day but was told by Tennessee Department of Transportation officials to take them down — permanently.

Omer Cox, an Oliver Springs alderman and commander of the DAV chapter, said he talked to TDOT engineer Bud Slaton.

“He said it was unsafe,  and we’re not allowed to have flags or signs in the medians,” Cox said.

“We’ve never had one to fall or blow off and hit somebody,” Cox added.

Cox believes someone has complained about the flags.

He said supporters plan to appeal to the state.

“We’re going to try and fight them a little bit. We might get the rules changed a little. We’re going to contact our state legislators.”

TDOT community relations officer Mark Nahl confirmed via email that the state asked the flags to be taken down.

“TDOT did not give permission for holes to be drilled into those concrete medians on State Route 61. The holes were drilled 6 inches deep and the flag poles extended a few feet into the air. Most importantly, it is a potential safety concern for drivers on both sides of the road. If one of these flags fell or became loose and hit or went across the windshield of a car, it could cause a serious accident,” Nahl said.

The flags are traditionally displayed from the Dollar General to Strutt Street for holidays, including Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Labor Day.

Cox said he hopes the town will not have to plan other ways to show its patriotism.

If it does, however, officials will offer the flags to veterans or have an official burning ceremony.